Where does the time go? I remember very clearly going to medical school for the first time and it dawned on me earlier this year, that I have been a qualified doctor for 15 years. Now, that thought did two things for me. It caused me to do some introspection, and it also reminded me that I am getting older.
My musings also caused me to reflect upon the fact that my first baby is now going into first form at secondary school. Seriously? Is that fuh real? With a deep sigh I told myself as I purchased white blouses and measurements were made for overalls, that it was not a dream but a reality.
How do you prepare your child for secondary school and even more so, how does one become prepared to help a child navigate these next few years. I certainly am no expert but I can share a few of the things that I have done and advice I have gleaned from others who have walked this path before.
Firstly, I believe your child needs to know that you are proud of the effort that he or she has made in the ever so controversial 11+ exam and that effort should be celebrated. Whilst I do not believe that mediocrity should be tolerated or awarded, this achievement must be perceived as a success by the child. In his or her mind subsequently, first form should be viewed as a level playing field and the upcoming school terms as wide open opportunities for excellence.
I tell my own children, and those with whom I come into contact with at work that there really are only two options at school. Either one does excellently or one wastes time, taxes and brain space and comes out of school empty-handed. I think the problem comes when we as parents or guardians confuse excellence and perfection.
Competition is necessary as it helps to foster life skills such as determination, the ability to set achievable goals, time management, problem solving, grit, the ability to work in groups, the ability to bounce back from failure and the list goes on and on. Therefore, trying to ‘beat’ the person who came first can be a good thing once it does not become an obsession for parents or the child.
However, the better thing to do might be to compete against oneself. Let’s say a child scored 53 per cent on a Spanish test. His or her next plan could be on the next test, aim for 60 per cent and continue climbing. Success engenders success and builds self-confidence. Unfortunately, many of our children lack confidence and so behave in ways contrary to the norm and eventually find themselves in some life-altering trouble.
Children need to be rounded. All our secondary schools offer a variety of extra-curricular activities in which our child can participate. I think it wise, based on the struggle we are having with the epidemic of childhood obesity, that at least one of these activities should be physical. Allow the children to choose, within reason, which activities they prefer and support their choices.
To my knowledge, if my advancing brain serves me correctly, my daughter has usually placed low in the standings at sports. However, she participated every year since pre-school and even got a medal at NAPSAC once. She won third place in an event in which there were only three participants! She has already decided that she wants to do volley-ball and track at her new school, and despite her track record, she has my blessing.
Maybe I should not juxtapose these two thoughts having just referred to my daughter’s athletic prowess and now proceed to discuss the concept of failure. Nevertheless, children need to be allowed the opportunity to fail.
Nobody in this life is perfect and at some point in time we all fail. What is important is the way in which failure is managed. Failure should be used as a platform for advancement, not a stage for self-pity. Ask the necessary questions about the failure – What went wrong? Where were the errors made? Who can I think of to help me with this problem? How can I improve? How can I avoid making the same mistake again? Thereafter, press on with the newly found wisdom and achieve all that you are meant to achieve.
Children also need time to interact socially and learn to develop healthy interpersonal relationships. This is where we as parents and guardians must be watchful. In the Bible it states in Proverbs 22:15 that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. Children are inherently not wise and it is our responsibility as adults to guide them and show them the correct way to navigate this life.
Sadly, too many children and teens are left to figure life out for themselves. They make poor choices and then we as a society suffer the negative consequences along with them. Guidance, good guidance might I add, could potentially save us money and much heartache as a nation. In theory, there would be fewer admissions to Her Majesty’s Prison, the courts and our local cemeteries and the hope of positive contributions to the treasury and the moral fabric of our country.
So, what do I plan to do? I plan to encourage my daughter. I want her to realise the full scope of her potential. I wish I could shield her from pain and hurt but that certainly would not help her to become the adult she needs to be. I plan to pray for her because I believe that I need God’s help to raise her in the right way. I plan to correct her because I do not intend to have any spoilt children living under my roof. I plan to celebrate with her, and so we are going out on a girls’ night soon, where we will get dressed up and have something to eat (without the boys). I am sure it will be a blast!
(Rénee Boyce is a medical doctor, a wife, a mother and a Christian, who is committed to Barbados’ development. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org)